It seems that our society discusses inequality and discrimination all the time. Unfortunately, all discussions often remain just conversations and rarely become something more than that. This is very sad because a lot of people in America are discriminated and they really need help. People suffer from social inequality everywhere and anytime. The saddest thing is that even children are being mistreated. Moreover, they are being discriminated by their own government, and it affects their future in worst possible way. The author of The Shame of the Nation Jonathan Kozol has been a teacher for decades, and he witnessed numerous cases of shocking inequalities in American schools.
In his book, he discusses the policy of racially segregated schools where children have no access to proper education and the most basic things. He also talked about this during his interview on television. Oprah Winfrey’s show also was investigating this issue, and after a brief experiment they came to heartbreaking conclusion. Students of urban schools, Black and Hispanic mostly, have to suffer in poor conditions, whereas children from wealthy suburbia are provided with good teachers, nice interiors, and huge computer classes. Our society supports really harmful idea about advantages of segregation schools, referring to some sort of “separate but equal” policy. On a contrary, these facilities are a shocking evidence of racial isolation and unequal opportunities for people of color.
The videos I watched made me very concerned about social inequality. I think that the worst part of it is total reluctance of our society to do something about it. In his interview, Kozol reports that poor Blacks and Hispanics were studying in underfunded schools for generations, and now parents cannot help their children to get better grades because they themselves were not schooled properly (Vinniecaruso, 2010a). In this circumstance, children have almost no chance of getting into college and having a well-paid job. Their children therefore are doomed to go to the same segregation schools, and this loop never seems to end.
It really stroke me that your chance of getting good education depends on dumb luck. If you are born to a middle-class suburban family, your school will be funded enough to give you all you need to become well-educated. Your teachers will do their best to prepare you for college, you will study in beautiful roomy classes, and numerous after-class activities will enhance your talents. However, if your family is poor and lives in a city, your school is very likely to look like a concentration camp. While Kozol was writing his book, he visited urban schools which were overcrowded, lacked basic things, and surrounded children with ugliness. He reports that only 38% of poor Black and Hispanic students manage to graduate from school, whereas suburban schools have 99% graduate rate (Vinniecaruso, 2010a). This difference increases social inequality and makes gap between rich and poor even bigger.
One of the major points of Kozol’s concern is unequal expenditure on education (Vinniecaruso, 2010b). The experiment conducted by OprahWinfrey’s show proves it totally (Aae007, 2010). There is a striking contrast between underfunded suburban schools and schools for White middle-class children. Eventually, urban children are considered too unimportant, because cities like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles spend almost half as much as suburbs do (Vinniecaruso, 2010b). Kozol insists that it negatively affects education, and the third video shows a great example of this. The Black girl, who was among the top of her class in city school, was shocked when she discovered the difference between school curriculums. She realized that despite all her hard work she still knows less than her wealthy peers (Aae007, 2010).
Another aspects of negative impact of expenditure gap are general poor conditions of these ghetto schools. Kozol believes that aesthetics really counts in terms of motivation (Vinniecaruso, 2010a). People feel better when they are surrounded with beautiful things, and they get a sense of self-respect and dignity. On the other hand, underfunded schools can offer their students only ugliness. Middle-class children from Winfrey’s experiment were stunned by conditions of the school they visited (Aae007, 2010). People feel really uncomfortable in places like this and they do not want to stay there for long. According to Kozol, this is one of many reasons why so many Black and Hispanic students drop out of school (Vinniecaruso, 2010b). They just do not want to be there.
This story is a great example of conflict theory, established by Karl Marks. It claims that life of society is based on constant class struggle. Rich people use their power to oppress poor in order to maintain privileged position. All resources are distributed unequally between social classes, and small number of capitalists gets practically everything, whereas large class of workers and poor people gets nothing. Situation with poor urban schools is the same. They are built for discriminated social groups, and local authorities do not want to invest in future of poor Hispanics or African-Americans. In contrast, children from middle-class and rich families get everything.
Overall, America is facing a real crisis of education system, providing different social groups with unequal opportunities. Concept of “separate but equal” supposes that if students of color study together, they will not be oppressed by White children from wealthy families. On a contrary, this segregation instills policy of apartheid, and urban schools become concentration camps of some sort. Children from poor families get poor education and often drop out of school, losing interest. The whole system works against them, and they are very unlikely to get a well-paid job and move to suburbia. This situation seems to satisfy authorities, and they do not want to change anything, supporting poverty and injustice. Definitely, our society should try to solve this problem instead of ignoring it.